Florida Derby 2022 Entries: Lynch's Classic Causeway not shy on April 2

The Grade 1 Florida Derby draws 11 colts ... what a race this one is going to be! Our turfwriter, J.N. Campbell, is here with a preview of the KYD148 'Points' contest!
The Grade 1 Florida Derby draws 11 colts ... what a race this one is going to be! Our turfwriter, J.N. Campbell, is here with a preview of the KYD148 "Points" contest!

Race 14: 1 1/8th (Dirt), Curlin Florida Derby (G1), Purse $1 million, 3 (Saturday)

Named for that celebrated Steve Asmussen runner, the Curlin Florida Derby is a Grade 1 staple on the Kentucky Derby Trail, offering “Points” of 100-40-20-10 in that order to the top 4 finishers. The race continues to be dominated by trainer Todd Pletcher, who has won 6 editions since 2007. Only one of those yielded a Derby Winner—Always Dreaming. The past 3 years saw Maximum Security, Tiz the Law, and Known Agenda score for conditioners Jason Servis (whose champ was involved in the 2019 DQ Derby and is in a world of trouble with the federal government), Barclay Tagg (whose runner won the Belmont S. and was retired after the Breeders’ Cup), and Pletcher (who ran in the Derby/Belmont … then was retired). Now, it is time to crown a new champion!

Now, let’s find out about this field…


#1 Strike Hard (Jky: J. Alvarado/Trn: M. Williams):

Here is a long shot that is drawn to the rail, and this colt by Flashback is going to have to dig deep. He gets the services of Junior Alvarado, who has decided to make Florida his year-round home. That probably will not be enough. Trainer Matt Williams' colt is going to need to get a solid break, and find a spot close to the frontend. The good news, if there is some, is that at least this one has a win over the surface. That is solace, I suppose …

Grade: C


#2 Classic Causeway (Jky: I. Ortiz/Trn: B. Lynch):

It is quite unusual in the post-modern era to win the Tampa Bay Derby, and then ship south to Gulfstream for this race. Trainer Brian Lynch is a seasoned conditioner, and he is bucking the trend to have his TAM Derby winner sit the bench till early May. I love the move, and from a conditioning standpoint, it makes a ton of sense. Every horse is different, but I interpret this move as proof that this colt by Giant’s Causeway needs some more experience with top competition. Of course, not so long ago, this type of decision would be fairly normal. Remember when 3-yr-olds would run in the Florida Derby and the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct … He has a strong shot to win, and that would be quite a statement. He wins with Irad Ortiz, and I think he should be the Derby favorite.

Grade: A


#3 Simplification (Jky: J. Ortiz/Trn: A. Sano):

This son of Not This Time (a half to Asmussen’s Epicenter) is rolling into the FLA Derby with a ton of confidence. Antonio Sano has really put him through his paces along the Series Trail at Gulfstream, and he has some fine performances to show for it. Winning the Mucho Macho Man $150k, and the Fountain of Youth (G2) really proved that he belongs as one of the top picks. Irad’s brother is going to face his sibling once again in a major contest, and his mount is going to take money for sure. If this one gets some pace to run into, expect him to be at the wire in the end. Big chance …

Grade: A-


#4 King of Truth (Jky: J. Morelos/Trn: A. Sanchez):

A turf and Tapeta runner for Amador Sanchez, you have to respect this one because he is by Into Mischief. That is about where it ends for this one … The former Wesley Ward racer is going to have to run out of horseshoes if he wants to game with this bunch. Nothing easy about coming into your 1st Grade 1 race … ever …

Grade: C


#5 Pappacap (Jky: E. Gonzalez/Trn: M. Casse):

HOF trainer Mark Casse has what could be termed a very typical 3-yr-old, who started out his 2-yr-old campaign blazing. Sometimes that happens … You ever see a kid in school one year who is scrawny, and then after the summer is done, they returned a head taller. Maturity can work both ways, and that is probably what has happened to this son of Gun Runner. He has competed in some very tough races, but his form seems to just keep sliding in the wrong direction. If he hits the board in this tough race, then it would probably be a victory. With 14 Derby Points to his credit, he could be on the bubble for entry into the starting gate at Churchill Downs. A solid performance could push him over the top. It is unlikely though …

Grade: C+


#6 Charge It (Jky: L. Saez/Trn: T. Pletcher):

If there is a “buzz” horse in this Grade 1 showcase, then it Todd Pletcher’s entry … the lightly-raced colt by Tapit. A homebred from Whisper Hill Farm, he has the makings for greatness … or a flash in the pan. These types are very difficult to assess, and if anyone tells you otherwise, they are fumbling around in the dark. This is Pletcher, and we know he has the power to take over a race like this one. I respect Luis Saez (I was the only NTWAB Member to vote him 1st), and he guided her last out when he broke his maiden. I think this one can get in-the-money, but it is not going to be easy. I will bet you that he doesn’t win the Florida Derby …

Grade: B


#7 White Abarrio (Jky: T. Gaffalione/Trn: S. Joseph):

Some hate mail authored by horseplayers was sent to Saffie Joseph’s outfit … not really. But I have heard scuttle that they do not want any part of betting this colt by Race Day. I think some of that comes from the idea that we only have the Holy Bull (G3) to go on. That seems a touch unfair because we know that he won impressively, handing Simplification #3 his only loss of the year. His work tab is full of impressive displays of speed, speed, and more speed. I wouldn’t count this one out, especially with the services of Tyler Gafffalione. Depending on how the tote board shakes out on Saturday, I might be making a rather large bet on this one. Joseph has really come into his own during the Meet, and it is impressive to see his rise on the big stage.

Grade: B+


#8 Cajun’s Magic (Jky: J. Rios/Trn: M. Yates):

Mike Yates is a conditioner that does not enter in many high-level contests like this one. He has a good stable, but based on this colt’s class, it is hard to see him crashing this party. A son of Cajun Breeze, and a homebred to boot, is an inviting prospect. However, it is probably just too big an ask with Jesus Rios aboard. He is an experienced rider, but does not get a chance to be in many races like this one. If the 3-yr-old gelding hit-the-board, it would probably be a miracle.

Grade: C


#9 O Captain (Jky: J. Rosario/Trn: G. Delgado):

As we head towards the outside stalls for this Grade 1, you will find a bunch of long shots. That doesn’t mean that they cannot get a piece of the action in the end. Trainer Gustavo Delgado’s colt by Carpe Diem was 3rd in the Fountain of Youth (G2) at 88/1, and before that in the Limehouse S. $100k. With speed figs that have grown steadily over 3 career races, one has to think that this could be one of those boxcar-priced entries that could make an impact. In the end, his price will probably not be that high because of the jockey Delgado has chosen to go with … Eclipse Award winner, Joel Rosario. He can take over a race, and maybe if there is a super sleeper, this is it.

Grade: B-


#10 Clapton (Jky: E. Jaramillo/Trn: J. Alvarado):

Running against other state breds does not exactly qualify you to match wits against the likes of the top runners that are looking to go to the Kentucky Derby. The Trail is about dreams, and it is going to take that to realize a victory for this son of Brethren. I like the workman-like approach of Emisael Jaramillo, but he is going to have to get the very best that this one has to offer. Even that might not be enough … winning an ALLW54k at Gulfstream by 4-lengths only pads the resume.

Grade: C


#11 Steal Sunshine (Jky: L. Reyes/Trn: B. Dibona):

Another super long shot from the extreme outside … Bobby Dibona’s well-bred son of Constitution has his work cut out for him. It is a positive sign that he posted such a strong number in his last race … an OC75kn1x race. That 2-turn route happened to be at 1 1/8th, and that makes this colt one of the few that is drawn-in that has actually attempted this distance. You have to look for gems where you can find them. Leo Reyes is a jockey that is still working on riding in “big game” races, so this is yet another opportunity for him to compete against some of the best. I do not know how this Dibona runner will perform, but if you are looking for some shots underneath, this is one to seriously consider.  

Grade: B-


Join us Saturday for all of our Florida Derby Day selections! Should be a great set of races from gorgeous Gulfstream Park! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter … Horseracing_USA !!!

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